You’ve just made the most important commitment a person can make in life. If you have placed your faith in Jesus and decided to follow Him, you have experienced what the Bible calls a “new birth.” And just like you have a physical birthday, you have a spiritual birthday - the day you became a Christian and began your walk with God.
One of your questions may be, “What do I do now?” Here’s some information to help jump start your journey: After a baby takes his first steps, the parents call loved ones. They excitedly announce the awesome accomplishment, which is the beginning of a new life of greater mobility and maturity. In the same way, the Christian life begins with a first step–salvation. But it’s only the start of a new life of increasing spiritual growth.
When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” they answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16: 30 – 31). It’s simple enough that even a child can do it, and after salvation, we are all like babies taking our first steps. A new believer doesn’t understand all the doctrines of salvation any more than a toddler knows all the mechanics of walking. However, once we are saved, we have a responsibility to learn what God has done for us and to take more steps of obedience in the Christian life.
Believing in Jesus Christ and accepting Him as your Savior is just the first step. You are now starting on the adventure of a lifetime, getting to know Him better, and living the abundant life that Jesus promised. What follows is not all-inclusive, but is designed to help you take those all-important first steps of living your new life in Christ. As a new-born child of God, there are many important things you need to understand. Take the time to look up any verses that are referenced throughout these guidelines.
1. Realize that you are saved by faith and not by feelings – Your salvation is based purely upon your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. In other words, salvation is not something that can be "earned" by how good you try to be or some religious act that you perform. Salvation is a free gift from God, which came as you simply put your faith in Jesus, His death and resurrection, and trusted him to forgive your sins and become your savior and Lord. The scripture says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Good feelings are nice to have, but feelings do not prove whether you're saved or not. There may be times when you "feel" that God is close to you, and other times when you "feel" that He's not. But remember that He has promised to always be with you and never leave you, regardless of feelings (Hebrews 13:5). Always remember that the Christian lives by faith, not by sight or the feelings of our natural senses. The Bible says “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
2. At times you may experience doubts – It’s not uncommon for the Devil to whisper doubts in your mind like: "You're not really saved," or "nothing really changed in your life." Don't believe Satan's lies and deceptive thoughts. If you placed your faith in Jesus Christ, then you are saved, regardless of whether you feel it or not. God's Word promises, “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
3. You are Forgiven of ALL of your sins – The Bible teaches that all mankind has a sinful nature which keeps him separated from God's presence and will result in spending eternity in hell. But Jesus came to suffer the consequences of that sin as our substitute, so that we could be forgiven of sin and have access to God's presence. When you asked Jesus to forgive your sins and become your Savior, that's exactly what he did. He forgave every sin you have ever committed, regardless of how awful or evil they may have been. God can forgive more sin than you can commit. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
4. You're not perfect, just forgiven – Being a Christian doesn't mean that you won't make mistakes; it means that you are forgiven of sin and your goal is to live like Christ and not in the old sinful way anymore. Don't ever let the Devil condemn you if you stumble or make a mistake! God loves you and wants you to ask Him to forgive you (1 John 1:9). Then He wants you to get back on your feet and keep you moving forward. Don't ever let other people or the Devil bring condemnation upon you. God loves you and will correct you, but He will not condemn you. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...” (Romans 8:1).
5. You are a New Creation – At the moment you accepted Jesus, He came into your heart by His Spirit, and now His presence and nature lives and dwells in your heart. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says “ Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;” You did not merely become a better person, you were "born again" spiritually as a brand new person! Now He wants you to learn to live your life according to the new nature of His Spirit inside you. The Bible says, “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
6. You must keep living for Christ – You must understand that your salvation is based upon your "continued" relationship with the Lord. He has promised to keep you saved, as long as you keep believing and living for Him. As a new Christian, you need to grow in your relationship with God and deepen your faith, so that discouragements, temptations, or trials will never cause you to drift away from God. When we live for Christ, the Bible says that Christ will one day present you before God, holy and unblemished “...If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel” (Colossians 1:23).
As Christ makes His home in your heart, you are changed – that is transformation. Two verses in the New Testament highlight this fact.
2 Corinthians 3:18 “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the LORD's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the LORD, who is the Spirit.”
Romans 8:29 “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
7. You need to be connected to a church – Just like a football player needs a team, a Christian needs a church. In Matthew 16:17, Jesus said that He would build the church. The Church was important to Jesus. The Church was important to the first Christians who risked everything to meet together. Right now, in some places in the world, it is against the law to attend church, so Christians meet secretly, with the threat of punishment or death hanging over their heads. The Church is important. You need to connect yourself to the body of Christ (a Biblical term for the Church). The Church is like the human body and each person serves an important part.
Everyone needs to be involved for the church to function properly. The church is not made up of perfect people, or good people, or religious people…it’s made up of people who have decided to follow Jesus - people like you. So, why be involved with church? Athletes need practice and coaching, and so do Christians. God has placed spiritual leaders in the church who will help you grow closer to God. You’ll hear God’s Word explained, and you’ll have a chance to worship God alongside other Christians. You’ll be part of that team, all working together. The Church will provide you with opportunities to learn more about Jesus and you will grow in your faith. The Bible warns us not to neglect church attendance because we need the strength and encouragement it brings. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another...” (Hebrews 10:25).
Further, you need to be involved in the ministry of the local church. The church is not just a place where you come and sit; it’s a place where you can come to serve. The church is a great place to serve God. You have gifts and abilities that can help the body. In 1 Peter 4:10, Peter tells us to use them to “serve others.”
You can use your gifts and talents right here. Find a place where you can use your specific gifts, talents, and abilities to make a difference. When we serve others, we realize it’s not all about us. A specific area needs you. Every Sunday morning, teams of people come together to lead worship, work with children, help people feel welcome, and much more. These groups of people serve alongside each other, and in the process of leading people from where they are to where God wants them to be, they are getting to know each other better.
8. You need to talk to God through prayer every day – Prayer is vital to your spiritual growth. God is your Heavenly Father, and He wants to hear from you and have daily fellowship with you. Not only does He promise to answer your prayers, but as you pray, He will also provide guidance and spiritual strength. The Bible tells us to "Pray continually" (1 Thessalonians 5:17), that is to pray faithfully every day, throughout the day.
If you want to get to know someone, you could read about them. But you might also want to talk to them. God wants to have a relationship with you – one that is real and personal. The Bible is full of invitations for you to talk to God. You don’t have to pick up a phone, or send an e-mail. You can talk to the very creator of the universe right now where you are.
Prayer is simply talking to God. You don’t have to use big words or flowery language. You don’t have to know fancy terms. You can talk to God just like you would talk to any friend. In fact, as a Christian, God is your Father and your Friend. How do you do it? Prayer is just talking to God.
9. You need to read the Bible daily – The Bible is God's Word, and as you read from it every day, it will cause you to grow spiritually (2 Timothy 2:15). The Bible is a collection of 66 books that communicate the message of God’s history with mankind and his love for humanity. Written by approximately 40 different authors, over a span of 1600 years, over a geographical span of 2200 miles, the one shining message of the Bible is contained in the single verse of John 3:16: - “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
The Bible is a book that will change your life, if you take the time to read it. The Bible is God’s message to you about his love for you and his plan for your life. As you study His written word (start with the book of John), He will strengthen your faith, speak to your heart, and give you guidance and direction for every need and decision in your life. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalms 119:105). “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” 1 Peter 2:2.
2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living.”
- When you read the Bible, God will show you things about Himself.
- When you read the Bible, God will show you things in your life that need to change.
- When you read the Bible, God will teach you what it means to be a Christ follower.
- When you read the Bible, you’ll get a better understanding of your purpose in life.
I want to encourage you to spend time each day reading God’s Word during some quiet time. Don’t get confused by all the different covers and translations out there - find a Bible that you can read and understand. Pastor Steve most often preaches from the New Living Translation and the New International Version.
Here are a few more pointers to get you started
Every Christian bookstore, as well as most large bookstores (Barnes and Nobles, etc.) will have Study Bibles that you can purchase. These are Bibles with additional notes that will tell you who wrote each book, why they wrote it, when they wrote it, etc. In addition each chapter will have additional notes that explain hard-to-understand verses. A Study Bible is a tremendous tool to learning the deep spiritual meaning of the Bible. The study notes are not the Word of God. They are helpful explanations by those who have spent their lives studying God’s Word so they can be helpful in understand what you are reading. .
The Bible student’s greatest tool for retaining what they read is a good journal. As you read each day look for one verse, one story, or one person that stands out in the narrative that you are reading and then journal a sentence or two about it and what it means to you. This practice will help you retain what you read and be able to tell others about it more easily.
There are many places in the Bible that are hard to understand and some that are downright confusing. When you come across a verse or a passage like this, write it down and be sure to ask somebody your questions. Your Sunday School teacher, small group leader, or the pastor can be helpful in answering questions that may arise.
Reading through the Bible can become wearisome – it’s a big book! Some books of the Bible are just difficult to understand and draw daily inspiration from. In addition, just like any commitment you make, sometimes the excitement you begin with just fades away over time. Expect difficult times, boring times, and busy times in your life – and keep reading through your Bible. It will be worth it spiritually!
10. You need to be baptized in Water – At your first opportunity, you should obey the Lord's command to be baptized in water as a confession of your repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19). Water baptism in itself does not save you or wash away your sins, but is an act of your obedience in God's Word. It symbolically shows that you have died to the old sinful life, and have risen in the newness of the Life of Christ. The scriptures say, “...Repent and be baptized, every one of you..." (Acts 2:38).
There are two requirements before a person is baptized 1) the person being baptized must have trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior, and 2) the person must understand what baptism signifies. If a person knows the Lord Jesus as Savior, understands that Christian baptism is a step of obedience in publicly proclaiming his faith in Christ, and desires to be baptized, then there is no reason to prevent the believer from being baptized. According to the Bible, Christian baptism is important because it is a step of obedience— publicly declaring faith in Christ and commitment to Him - an identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection
11. You need to live a holy life – Your are saved by faith and grace, not by your actions. However, when a person decides to invite Jesus to be the Lord of their life, it is natural that we would want to please Him with our lives. As we have mentioned, Christians are not perfect. However, God wants you to "aim" toward perfection. That is, your goal must be to grow in submitting yourself to the new nature of His Spirit in your heart, follow the example of Jesus, and live a godly and wholesome life (Hebrews 12:14). You repented and asked Him to forgive your sins, and now you need to grow closer to Him each day, which will take you farther away from sinful thoughts and behavior which are displeasing to God.
Your faith in God will cause a desire to obey Him and do those things pleasing in His sight (Colossians 1:10). Should you continue to live in an unrestrained, sinful lifestyle, this would lead you away from God and back toward the old ways which lead to death. But as you grow in your relationship with God, His strength in your life will increase to overcome sinful behavior and habits. “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
12. You need to be Filled with the Holy Spirit – The Holy Spirit came to live within you when you received Christ and now resides in you. But the Bible also says that the Holy Spirit can also empower you with special power for service, to enable you to live a powerful Christian life, and to be bold in your Christian witness and testimony. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you: and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Salvation is what set you free, but the fullness of the Holy Spirit is what keeps you free. To receive this power, just ask Christ to fill you with His Holy Spirit, and He promises that He will. It is so important to be filled with the Holy Spirit, that we should ask Him to fill and refresh us with His power every day!
13. You need to tell others about Christ – It is also important for you to openly declare Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord to others, as it establishes the testimony of your faith. Once you have accepted Jesus Christ, tell someone. Don't keep it a secret. The Bible says that “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33). Others need to hear about what Jesus has done in your life, so they too can receive Him too... but when you openly declare your faith in Christ, you will also sense the witness of His presence in your heart, a deep assurance that He is with you.
One of the best ways to tell people about your new faith is to invite them to church. So much of what we do on Sunday mornings is designed for guests. We want everyone in our area to know about the grace and forgiveness that comes from God. You can partner with us to reach people who are far from God by simply inviting them to church. Our goal is to help them become passionate Christians who make a difference in the world.
14. BE A CHEERFUL GIVER – “Oh no, please don’t mention money.” Many of us have experienced this thought at some point in our spiritual journey but we would be Biblically wrong not to share what God’s word says about giving.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “God loves a cheerful giver.” When we give with a willing heart, God assures us He will watch over us and provide for us (Isaiah 58:9; Psalm 41:1-3; Proverbs 22:9; 2 Corinthians 9:8, 11). Luke reminds us of Jesus’ words in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” The second letter to the Corinthians reveals a number of inspiring truths that should help us become cheerful givers. As Paul wisely taught in 2 Corinthians 9:6, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Solomon also stated this a thousand years earlier in Proverbs 3:9-10, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing.” And Jesus Himself told us in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.”
The Bible is clear - we cannot out-give our gracious Creator when we become cheerful givers. The only place in the Bible where God invites us to test Him is in Malachi 3:10 where He is talking about our offerings made to Him: “Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Quite simply our greatest motivation for cheerful and generous giving should be that it pleases the Lord and reflects His gift of salvation to us. Cheerful giving should be a way of life for the Christian who understands the grace of God.